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MarkMonitor Supports Brand Registry Group (BRG) Call for Preliminary Applicant Guidebook

During last week's ICANN71 Virtual Policy Forum, the Brand Registry Group (BRG) held a very informative session about how ICANN can help potential applicants prepare for the next new gTLD round.

Speakers during the session provided historical perspective that applicant guidebooks have regularly evolved over time as a result of community review and feedback provided to ICANN, providing concrete examples of how the current applicant guidebook was developed. Others pointed out that ICANN should not allow the "perfect" to be the enemy of the "good," calling on ICANN to move quickly to a draft guidebook, expecting improvements as the next round approaches. The BRG noted that of the 123 policy recommendations generated by the Subsequent Procedures Working Group (Sub Pro) covering the next round, only nine were substantive changes. 80 recommendations are deemed merely minor changes, implying that a new draft guidebook could be released sooner than later.

Releasing a draft guidebook will allow organizations to review, provide feedback, and helpfully use the draft guidebook internally to help decide whether to apply. During the session, several potential applicants noted that a draft guidebook would be helpful, or more likely necessary, for their organizations to decide whether to apply. As a BRG member, MarkMonitor is supportive of this effort, and adds our encouragement to the growing chorus of voices calling for ICANN to move forward with the next new gTLD round.

We are also sympathetic to concerns raised by parts of the ICANN community that adding more new gTLDs increases the risk of brand abuse online. In fact, we note in our recent report that unlike most ccTLDs, new gTLDs have had outsized rates of domain disputes relative to market share, yet nowhere near the rates of pre-2012 gTLDs. To that end, we are supportive of development of robust, mandatory rights protection mechanisms like the Trademark Clearinghouse and Sunrise periods, as well as voluntary brand protection and security features like Donuts' DPML and TrueName products.

We also recognize that ICANN must deliver on its decade-old promise to the community to launch another round of new gTLDs. For perspective, when the last new gTLD round closed, Instagram had not yet launched on Android, and elite American football quarterback Joe Flacco had not yet won his first Super Bowl.

Revisions and improvements are inevitable, and we should not allow desire for perfection or fear of missing stated timeframes to delay progress. The BRG emphasized — and we echo — that ICANN should move forward and publish a draft applicant guidebook with an estimated timeframe for the next round without delay.

Session recording and materials are available here:
https://71.schedule.icann.org/meetings/s5JqWTEPMMcZ9reMP

By Brian King, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Intellectual Property Group at MarkMonitor

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